September 23, 2014 at 2:35PM

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High iso cameras and the pupil. Does pupil dilation affect our audience and can we control it?

Take a look.
http://vimeo.com/106438250

For a few years I have been fasinated by pupil dilation, and what meanings can be construed from the contraction or dilation in a persons eyes. (http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/sexuality/love-make-pupils...) Adapting the link between pupil dilation and emotion, I think it’s possible to add an additional level of meaning to a scene through the pupils of an actor.

When the classic "girl next door" is introduced, it might make sense to expose at a lower light level in the interest of keeping her eyes dilated, so that the audience experiences the same emotional connection that our hero does.

As cinematographers we spend a great deal of time getting the eyes just right. I often engage in debate with directors, and other cinematographers of whether it would it make sense for us to consider pupil dilation, in addition to shutter angle and aperture, when choosing light levels.

With new cameras and their sensitivity to light, lighting for specific pupil dilation seems like an attainable goal. (Falcon- http://gizmodo.com/a-revolutionary-night-vision-camera-that-lets-you-see..., Sony f55- http://nofilmschool.com/2012/10/sony-announces-f5-and-f55)

I’ve begun shooting my own tests on this subject and now I’m reaching out with this first introduction video I shot a few months ago. Please let me know what you think.

14 Comments

Unless you plan on shooting a lot of close-ups, will your audience even notice if a characters pupils are dilated ?

The usual connotation with dilated pupils in most movies is drug use, which might not be the angle you are going for.

September 23, 2014 at 8:27PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32727

Thank you. Definately a worth comment and a line that you don't always want to cross. Don't want talent to start looking like a power puff girl. As to would you notice it I guess my question is did you notice in the side by side test pn vimeo? Thoughts?

September 23, 2014 at 10:35PM

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Jeffrey Siljenberg
Cinematographer
248

I only noticed because I knew what you were comparing. In a regular narrative film I probably would not have noticed unless it was an extreme close up.

The only film that comes to mind when I think about pupil dilation is Aronofsky`s "Requiem for a Dream" where it was used to illustrate the effects of drug use.

September 24, 2014 at 10:36PM, Edited September 24, 10:36PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32727

Cool ya Requiem is tends to be what people think of first. I don't mean the act of dilating though just dilated. As to weather the audience would be conscious of pupils being dilated I hope not. My hope is that it creates a feeling with out an audience noticing. The camera is a force of nature sort of thing. I guess my question guy is do you feel different when you look at the two images?

September 25, 2014 at 2:08AM

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Jeffrey Siljenberg
Cinematographer
248

Ps. this would be a close up tool. Wide shots this wouldn't really work.

September 25, 2014 at 2:09AM, Edited September 25, 2:09AM

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Jeffrey Siljenberg
Cinematographer
248

This is quite interesting and to me the girl looked much more normal with dilated pupils. You could connect to her, you could feel some sort of an emotion and she had a soul, even though she was just sitting there and doing nothing while the part where her pupils were constricted, she seemed, I don't know, disconnected, she had no soul and no emotion. I think that if we had some real world test that it would be much better to study this, but in my opinion dilated pupils look better.

September 24, 2014 at 4:00PM

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Dominik Belancic
Cinematographer/Director
261

Thanks. The thought of doing a scene that is basically the same twice might work for a real world test. One with a lot of foot candles and one with minimum.

September 25, 2014 at 2:00AM

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Jeffrey Siljenberg
Cinematographer
248

Great study, thanks for sharing!

That's something "they dont teach you in schools"! Clearly there is an emotional connection, and I can see how you can use it to convey emotions.

Again great job and thanks for sharing!

September 25, 2014 at 6:33PM, Edited September 25, 6:33PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
4025

Extremely cool test, and I could definitely see uses for it.

When I read the thread topic, I honestly didn't think much of it, but the pupil dilation really changes the subtext of the shot. Thanks for sharing!

September 25, 2014 at 8:01PM

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Jonathan Hout
Designer, Cinematographer, Storyteller
8

This is a very interesting idea. In evolutionary psychology they say that the idea of the blond bombshell has blue or light eyes because its easier to read them. Our eyes dialate when we lok at something we like. So if we meet someone and their eyes dialate they might be into you. They say that's where the idea that dark eyed people are "mysterious" came from. With dark irises it's harder to discern whether the eyes are dialated or not.

Its definitely something to consider, but would also be a consideration of time on set. It could add a beautiful subtlety to a scene, and help it ring as truth. But there are times when you don't have time for that kind of sublety. Its definitely something I may think about on my next film.

September 26, 2014 at 12:21PM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
744

I'm an slt on a CBS show right now and ya unfortunately there is almost never time for these subtleties.

September 26, 2014 at 12:50PM

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Jeffrey Siljenberg
Cinematographer
248

Definitely not on a TV schedule. However on a feature it could be possible. But a lot of factors would have to line up.

September 26, 2014 at 4:57PM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
744

It's interesting effect, with a low light camera I think.

September 29, 2014 at 2:42AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7705

Does this bring back memories. As a freshman in college in 1970 taking a photography class, I wanted to shoot a closeup portrait of a beautiful girl and I wanted to make sure her pupils were wide. Don't remember why, exactly. Just thought she looked more attractive somehow. (I was a freshman. What did I know about girls?) I informed my subject that we were working in a very dim studio because I wanted her pupils to open. She said, "You aren't supposed to notice that unless you're in love."

It's a shame that something as nice as open pupils is more associated with drug abuse than love.

Aside from drugs, pupils also dilate to get a better view (allow more light in) of something you're interested in. What's better than staring into the eyes of an attractive woman?

And while open pupils would be easier to see in closeups, in the age of HD and 4K -- and eyes being the very definition of whether the shot is in focus or not -- the diameter of the pupils could definitely be a subtle cue to the viewer. Would you prefer beady eyes -- the stock in trade of the bad guy?

April 30, 2015 at 12:36AM

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